101 S Webster, P.O. Box 7921, Madison, WI 53707
Phone: 608-267-2773 TDD: 711
DATE: September 5, 2013
MADISON – With clear intent to continue environmental education programs while developing an innovative outdoor skills center, the Department of Natural Resources is announcing it will again assume full operation of the MacKenzie Center starting Jan. 2, 2014.
“We are pleased to announce that school-aged environmental education programs will continue to be offered at MacKenzie. Additionally, to address a nationwide decline in hunting, angling and trapping, we will begin work to develop a new outdoor skills center,” said Kurt Thiede, DNR Land Division administrator. “These activities are important to conservation, Wisconsin’s heritage and are a large part of conservation funding. We will provide a hands-on platform for new participants and mentors to learn outdoor skills.”
The department initiated an open process known as a Request for Proposals or RFP to identify organizations that could help achieve the new goals at the center. Interested organizations included the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation, who operated educational programming in partnership with DNR at the state-owned facility for the past seven years.
Though numerous organizations indicated interest, Wisconsin Wildlife Federation submitted the only RFP during the open process. A team composed of DNR and non-DNR personnel reviewed and scored the proposal. Based on the review, the team forwarded their recommendation to administration stating that the DNR should not enter into a long-term agreement with WWF.
“Though we have valued our partnership with WWF over the past seven years, the review team felt the proposal did not lay out a solid path to achieving our vision,” said Thiede. “Having heard the public’s desire to keep the facility open, and the fact that the legislature has directed the department to fund MacKenzie and provide education through August 15, 2014, we needed to evaluate effective options.
“As a result of this process, DNR has decided it will provide funding, curriculum and educators for environmental programs and outdoor skills through this required August timeline and beyond. We are really looking forward to enhancing operations at the center while taking the lead on finding efficiencies.”
DNR has appointed JD Smith as Director of the MacKenzie Center. Smith is the former education section chief at DNR and will be forming a team to evaluate current operations, facility needs, and put processes in place to achieve the full vision for the center. This will involve reaching out to schools to get their input on the type of programs they would find most valuable and continuing to engage the current Friends of MacKenzie leadership.
“We will be spending the next several months assessing programming, working with the transition team. Together we will forward recommendations on future programs and operational efficiencies,” said Smith. “We want to hear from our customers, and will keep them informed along the way.”
The department has a short-term agreement in place with WWF that assures educational programming will continue as scheduled through January 1, 2014. During the transition, DNR will be in communication with schools on scheduling programs at the facility for 2014.
In addition to continuing educational programming at the center, DNR plans to continue hosting popular events like days featuring maple syrup and learn-to-hunt events. Additionally, the animal exhibit will remain at MacKenzie, and DNR anticipates lodging will continue to be offered as part of the programming at the center. There are currently no plans to establish a shooting range at MacKenzie.
Those interested in receiving updates on the MacKenzie Center can subscribe to DNR Updates at https://public.govdelivery.com/accounts/WIDNR/subscriber/new. Click on “MacKenzie Center Updates” within “Announcements and News.”